Our journey to the East starts in Calcutta (now Kolkata), a city founded by the British, on the banks of the river Ganges, which is home to more than ten million people. It is a city of teeming contrasts where fading eighteenth century mansions and grandiose buildings of the Raj stand next to bustling bazaars and modern high-rise malls. A city of many faiths, cultures and trades, Calcutta makes room for all. During its history, Calcutta has welcomed many diverse peoples such as Chinese, Armenians and Jews, all of whom have left their imprints in pockets of the city. The poverty of this city is well documented. Less known are the people who strive daily to make a difference. We will get a chance to meet some of these people and visit their work in this amazing city.
Bengal is feminine, infused with the culture of the Goddess in worship and agriculture. We visit temples of Kali, Durga, the mother and daughter, celebrate Annapurna, the goddess of plenty and follow the cycle of the the earth goddess, from planting to harvesting through festivals, music and dance.
We then turn to the heartland of the East and go to the villages near the university town of Santiniketan. This 'abode of peace' was founded in 1901 by the famous poet and Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, who began a unique rural educational institution, which emphasizes the relationship of human beings with nature and art.
The journey to the East has developed as a response to people coming on the Buddhapath pilgrimage and wanting to go deeper into Indian culture, to understand the wisdom of sustainable indigenous systems and practices. The non-profit Ahimsa Trust, which is partly supported by proceeds of the Buddhapath pilgrimage, works in nine ethnically-diverse villages in the vicinity of Santiniketan. Farmers, women and youth are focusing on areas such as organic farming, kitchen garden seed funds, medicinal plants, craft training, product improvement, and barter of essential goods and services, and for cultural strengthening and functional literacy. The Journey to the East is a way for this work to be self-sustaining. Youth groups are being trained to be knowledgeable guides for this lifestyle-tourism where visitors will be encouraged to participate in community work such as cooking and food processing as well as craft-making and the various stages of the rice-growing cycle.
Extensions that may added before and after the Journey to the East:
In the Footsteps of the Buddha - Peepal Pilgrimage
The Taj Mahal at Agra
The Exquisite Caves